Class of 2021 Mock Class Descriptions

Mock/Sample Class Descriptions Spring 2017

Dr. Linda Auker, Biology
Invaders, Exotics, and Nonindigenous Species: Making Sense of Introduced Species.
You may have heard about the Burmese Python in Florida, the Zebra Mussel in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, or European Starlings in the United States. You may also have heard the terms “invasive species,” “exotic species,” “nonindigenous species,” and “native species.” In this class session, we will learn what these terms actually mean from the perspective of invasion ecologists and the steps it takes to become an invasive species. This topic is adapted from the currently offered Biology course, “Invasive Species.”

Dr. Sarah Barber, English
Translating Ideas to Images: Creative Writing
In this session we'll dive into one of the most basic, but most difficult, tasks of the creative writer: translating abstract concepts, emotions, and ideas into sensory, imagistic, and descriptive language. We will explore a number of strategies for creating more engaging and vivid language in hands-on ways (crayons, scissors, tape, and paper and pens will be provided), and students can ask questions about creative writing and English at SLU.

Dr. Stephen Barnard, Sociology
Technology and Social Change
Modern society has been undergoing profound social transformations due in large part to the onset of the digital age. But, what is “technology,” anyway, and how does it factor into the complex processes of social change? In this class session we will introduce a sociological perspective of these issues before reviewing examples from everyday life and popular culture. You will also be asked to participate in an activity that connects these broad social changes to your own perspective and experiences.

Dr. Caroline Breashears, English
Fairy Tales
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, / Who’s the fairest one of all?” As anyone who has read the Brothers Grimm knows, the answer is “Snow White.” With skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony, she surpasses her wicked stepmother in beauty and therefore seals her death warrant. But why does the stepmother sit around talking to a mirror? Why does Snow White have to escape from her stepmother by moving in with seven dwarfs? And why must she die before she can meet her prince? In this sample class, we examine what's really going on in fairy tales and why they endure. We will begin with a definition of fairy tales and an introduction to one theoretical approach to interpreting them. Then we will use that theory to analyze versions of a fairy tale, uncovering layers of meaning. Finally, we will outline our own fairy tales, discussing how modifying setting, symbolism, or structure updates a fairy tale’s meaning for us.

Dr. Matt Carotenuto, History
The Image of Africa: Myth and Reality
Popular portrayals of Africa and the people who live there are often clouded by myths and stereotypes. Images of untouched landscapes filled with wild animals, "tribal violence" and endemic disease dominate many everyday conversations about the continent. But how have these contemporary descriptions been historically produced? And who is responsible for their production? In this class we will analyze popular media and common misconceptions about the world’s second largest continent.

Dr. Robert Cowser, English
Finding the Words: An Introduction to Literary Writing
The writing you’ll likely be asked to do in college creative writing courses demands that writers (and readers) engage their world rather than escape it. In the face of crisis, change and loss, we tell ourselves “things happen for a reason.” But writers of literature share a determination to discover, as well as they can, what those reasons are. Not content with the idea that “words cannot express,” they are committed to finding the words. We’ll look at short pieces that exhibit the qualities of literary writing and discuss ways to begin taking a more literary approach to our own work. We’ll also discuss the wonderful opportunities available to student writers through St. Lawrence’s stellar English department.

Dr. Cathy Crosby, Psychology
To Be or Not To Be Insane?
Insanity cases may be relatively rare in the legal system, but they often capture our attention because they raise an intriguing question: how can someone violate the law but be not guilty of a crime? They also pose a difficult question for the legal system, which is trying to balance individual rights against the protection of society. We will explore the reasons the U.S. legal system includes an insanity defense, the different tests used to determine insanity, and what happens to a defendant found NGRI (not guilty by reason of insanity). We will also look at a hypothetical case of potential insanity and talk about how we might respond if we had to decide.

Dr. Alison Del Rossi, Economics
Competition or Cooperation?
You might think that firms’ and individuals’ behavior in our market-based economy is all about competition, but there are many examples of cooperation in business and individual economic decision making. We will discuss what we mean by each term, think of examples when each is present in our economy, and think about when each can lead to positive or negative outcomes for society. We will also play a game (for a prize!) to help you think about competition versus cooperation.

Dr. Jeffery Frank, Education
What Role Should Technology Play in Education?
Technology has advanced rapidly in the past twenty years, but schooling—from kindergarten to college—has largely remained unchanged. Is this a problem? There are technologists, politicians, policy-makers, and educational researchers who argue that schooling needs to change dramatically because of this rapid technological change. At the same time, there are movements—Waldorf education, Forest Schools, forms of un-schooling (to name a few)—that advocate less reliance on technology and a return to the exploration of nature in schools. In this course, we will consider the question: What future(s) do we want for education, and what role(s) should technology play in schooling? 

Dr. Elun Gabriel, History
The Shock of the Great War
This seminar will explore the cultural shock Europeans experienced during the First World War. In August 1914, everyone expected a short, glorious war, in which men would demonstrate their heroism in battle and return home before Christmas as conquering heroes. Instead, the war lasted over four years, killed millions of men, and introduced to the world horrors including trench warfare, artillery bombardment, and poison gas attacks. Through an examination of propaganda, poetry, paintings, and film, we will look at how the world of the nineteenth century was obliterated by mechanized, anonymous mass slaughter.

Professor Dan Gallagher, Performance & Communication Arts
Color Theory in Light
In this hands-on class we will see how color mixes differently with light than with pigment. We will go over the basics of color theory, terminology, and methods of light and color measurement. By turning on several “white” light sources like a candle, incandescent, fluorescent, and arc sources, we develop a baseline. Next we look at additive and subtractive color mixing with LED and colored gel media. This class will cover the physics and art of how we use color to light for the stage.

Professor Paul Graham, English
Food Literature
Food writing is currently a very popular form that has spilled over into other forms of media, such as TV and film. Long viewed as “escape” reading, food literature is now recognized as an important area to study. In this sample class, we will learn about how the genre of literary writing about food has evolved over time according to changes in ideas about what is delicious and what is not, shifting social values, and environmental concerns.

Dr. Tom Greene, Psychology
SLU Spaces and Places
Winston Churchill said: "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us." Lawns and gardens, classrooms, residence halls and social spaces all set the context of the St. Lawrence living and learning environment. For more than three decades psychology students have been studying our campus spaces. We will see ways in which students and classes have documented, and sometimes even helped to shape, the campus places we share.

Dr. Adam Harr, Anthropology
Dialect Diversity in the U.S.
Is America losing its accents? Popular perception is that American English is losing its local linguistic flavors, perhaps due to the influence of mass media. Recent studies, however, point to the opposite conclusion: that America’s regional accents are in fact growing apart from each other. In this seminar, we will take a tour of the latest research, including a dialect survey conducted by SLU linguistic anthropology students. In addition to examining some of the evidence for the increasing diversity of American English, we will also consider the possible political and historical reasons behind it.

Dr. Wendi Haugh, Anthropology
Foragers and Reindeer Herders: An anthropological look at making a living among the Dobe Ju/'hoansi and Saami peoples
Cultural Anthropology introduces students to the comparative study of human cultures and societies. In this class session, we will use lecture, film, and discussion to learn about foraging (also known as hunting and gathering) and pastoralism (also known as herding), two of the four major types of subsistence economy people have developed in different regions of the world. We will focus in particular on the Ju/’hoansi hunter/gatherers of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa and the Saami reindeer herders of northern Scandinavia.

Dr. Evelyn Jennings, History
Cuba: So Near and Yet So Far
In December 2014 former President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced a plan to restore full relations between the two countries. Shortly thereafter Obama also reduced restrictions for Americans wishing to travel to Cuba. By August 2016 direct commercial flights between the US and Cuba resumed after more than fifty years. Suddenly hundreds of thousands of Americans wanted to visit the island. Why are Americans fascinated with Cuba? Is it curiosity about life in a socialist economy? Is it true that Cuba has been “frozen in time” since 1959? Will Cuba change now that there is more contact with Americans visitors? In this class we’ll examine how and why relations between the US and Cuba broke down in the early 1960s, what the US embargo is and how it’s evolved, and what life is like in Cuba today, along with some reflections from a group of SLU students who visited the island in January 2016.

Dr. Valerie Lehr, Gender and Sexuality Studies & Government
The Hidden Brain and Gender Equity
Social science research continues to help us to understand human behavior. The Hidden Brain is a segment from National Public Radio in which social scientist Shankar Vedantan reports on interesting research. In this class, we will listen to three or four segments that I use in Gender Studies classes to consider why it is so hard to achieve gender equity in society. We will consider the ways by which social expectations influence our sense of self, including our ability to accomplish hard tasks and negotiate salary, as well as how unconscious bias operates in our interactions with others, thus reinforcing our biases.

Dr. Dan Look, Mathematics
Dimension, Fractals and a Touch of Chaos
Fractals are stunningly beautiful geometrical objects with applications in data transfer and chaos theory. Benoit Mandelbrot gave fractals their name in the mid-70s, but fractals were known long before Mandelbrot. Together, we will investigate fractals, starting with basic definitions and working our way through some elementary mathematics that will yield surprising, often paradoxical, results. Time permitting, we will discuss dimension and find that many of the peculiarities displayed by fractals arise because they exist "between dimensions." No specific mathematical knowledge is needed for this class.

Dr. Mark MacWilliams, Religious Studies
Friday, March 31st
Class Japanese Anime and Pilgrimage

Japanese animated films are very popular in Japan and the World. Recently in Japan, young people are traveling to on-site locations that form the backdrop of these animated films. The question is whether these “pilgrimages to sacred lands,” as the anime fans call their travels, has anything to do with religion.

Dr. Mark MacWilliams, Religious Studies
Friday, April 21st
Touring the North Country Japanese Garden (class meets at the Sykes Japanese garden)
What makes a garden a place for meditation and spiritual cultivation? Students will visit the SLU Japanese garden and learn how the garden design was inspired by students and faculty research into traditional Kyoto Zen temple gardens. Students will also have a chance to make ema (votive tablets for their future SLU academic success) that they can attach to the offering stand of the garden’s Buddhist enshrined deity, Manabi Jizo.

Dr. Erin McCarthy, Philosophy
Who am I? Introducing Philosophy East and West
Who am I? How do I want to live my life? These are two perennial philosophical questions that have fascinated philosophers across time and culture. In this session we will delve into how Western and Eastern philosophers approach these questions. Is there any such thing as a self that stays the same over time? If so, where is it located? If not, then what does “self” even mean? And what effect does how I think about what my “self” is have on how I live my life?

Dr. Ronnie Olesker, Government
Playing Games in International Relations
This class is a sample of what you can expect in the regularly offered Introduction to International Relations course offered every semester at SLU. The class will focus on game theory that can explain how humans make decisions based on certain incentive structures offered to them. These games can tell us quite a bit about how states behave in the international system. You will spend this class playing some of the games and trying to learn what concepts we can extrapolate from your own experience making decisions.

Dr. Serge Onyper, Psychology
What makes a memory?
Many of us go through life seeking rich, novel experiences, yet few realize that our ability to perceive the world around us and to remember what we have experienced is constrained by the cognitive architecture of the human mind. In this interactive class we will explore a number of striking perceptual, attentional, and memory phenomena that will make you question your eyes and push your memory to its limits! We will discuss whether it is possible to achieve supermemory as well as what you can do to improve your ability to retain and remember everyday information.

Dr. Peter Pettengill, Environmental Studies
Containing Contaminants at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Decorated by natural wonders that have taken millennia to develop, the underground chambers of Carlsbad Caverns are likely to appear pristine and protected to most visitors. However, research has revealed that even the most innermost reaches of the park’s subterranean resources may be threatened by outside contaminants associated with visitor use. In light of these scientific discoveries, managers used a number of innovative techniques to protect park resources. This lecture/discussion based class provides an overview of park resources at Carlsbad Caverns National Park and describes the conceptual frameworks used and applied management actions taken to preserve them.

Dr. Mindy Pitre, Anthropology
Forensic Anthropology
Ever wonder how forensic anthropologists on television programs such as “Bones” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” can determine the sex, age, and/or height of a person from just a skeleton? Well, this is your chance to find out. During this seminar, you will learn some of the techniques used by forensic anthropologists and test them out on real human bones.

Dr. Jon Rosales, Environmental Studies
Climate Injustice in Alaska
Indigenous villages in Alaska are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Many of these villages are located on the coast and affected by increased storm surge, coastal erosion, and the loss of sea ice as a hunting platform. Some of these villages, including Shaktoolik, were moved to the coast by the US government in order to more easily assimilate their cultures, with schools and post offices, into the dominant US culture. Now these villages need to relocate due to climate change and the federal government is not prepared to assess, coordinate, and even acknowledge their condition. This class delves in to these issues and introduces you to our work with the Alaskans Sharing Indigenous Knowledge project and the work of current and former St. Lawrence students.

Dr. Angela Sweigart-Gallagher, Performance and Communication Arts
Acting 101: Using “Given Circumstances” to Enhance Scene Work
In order to create a realistic performance in a play or scene, actors must learn to look for and use the “given circumstances” of a scene, aka “the facts,” or the who, what, when, where, why, and how provided by the playwright. This practice-based class will introduce you to the concept of “given circumstances” and get you up on your feet to practice using them to create a compelling performance. We will start with open scenes and move towards working with a playwright’s text. Be prepared to move, perform, and learn on your feet.

Dr. Madeleine Wong, Global Studies
Globalization and Public Health
What is globalization? What is public health? How are the two connected? This class will introduce students to the major global health challenges facing an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, such as infectious diseases, drug flow and addictions, and conflict and refugee crises. Students will get an overview of health as a fundamental right of every human being, and of public health as what society does collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy. Finally, the class will offer students an idea of how complex global and structural factors – such as poverty, environmental risk, and health policies – impact the health and well-being of populations (i.e., the public).

Dr. Susan Willson, Biology
You’ll never be as close to your siblings as ant, bee and wasp sisters are to each other.
Ants, wasps and bees live in colonies entirely made up of sisters. The sisters care for each other, go out and gather food to feed their sisters and the waiting larvae (“the kids”), and even fight with intruders to protect their colony with their lives. However, the kids are not theirs – only one female, the “queen,” reproduces in the colony. Why do these sisters risk their lives for others and never reproduce themselves? Doesn’t that go against the idea of evolutionary fitness? We’ll take a look at the fascinating system of haplodiploidy found in the wasp and ant family Hymenoptera. You’ll never look at an ant the same again, and you will have newfound respect for the way a colony acts as a cohesive unit.